Band-o-rama craze returns

Danielle M. Dahlke

Members of the conservatory take on many hats as they prepare for the upcoming Band-o-rama. The one-of-a-kind event was once a Lawrence tradition that went the way of the buffalo, only to be revived this year with renewed vigor. Band-o-rama begins on Sunday, Jan. 19, in Memorial Chapel. (Appleton Post-Crescent)

One would have to have been an extreme “super-senior” to remember a time when there was an annual concert that once involved a live horse in Memorial Chapel. It’s been over 12 years now, but thanks to the efforts of the Director of Bands, Robert Levy, Band-o-Rama is back in 2003, with many new twists.The re-vamped event, involving about 99 percent of conservatory students, hits the stage for one time only Sunday, Jan. 19, at 3:00 p.m. It will involve members from the wind ensemble and symphonic band, other performers, and even the audience. It is also designed to appeal to anyone from the elementary student to the most serious professor.

The program was stopped in the mid-1980s due to a lack of interest and the fact that “it got kind of out of hand,” explains senior wind ensemble clarinetist and guest director Jordan Webster.

No need to worry anymore because since November, 17 committees made up of band members and many other serious students of the conservatory have been working and practicing for the event. Now the entire community will have their chance to, perhaps, see a few Lawrence men in pink leotards, a girl in a bathtub on stage, and “live” gorillas take to the limelight.

This lighthearted performance is geared to a wide audience. It’s not the rigid-yet-dazzling type of performance that is most frequently heard on concert nights.

The jazz/march/pops theme allows for relaxed music and also “appeals to a wider audience,” says sophomore Anna Schmidt, an oboist in the wind ensemble.

Band-o-Rama is another way to reach out to the community, through advertisement directed toward Appleton-area schools.

“It’s sort of a family fun festival,” comments Webster.

It hasn’t been all play and no work for these driven students. “It’s been . . . a madhouse to get together, but any frustrations we’ve had in putting it together will be worthwhile,” explains Webster, also a publicity committee chair.

With members of these ensembles taking on new roles as actresses, dancers, and comedians, it has been a great way to learn all of the hidden talents that LU students possess.

“A lot of Lawrence students take what they do very seriously and sometimes it’s hard for them to step out of their normal regimens and have fun with what they do,” Webster says.

The audience can look forward to a “complete departure from the venues that are usually here,” and an “element of surprise,” with “funny, humorous bit[s],” confides conductor Levy.

“You could also say the program is a blend of Monty Python, Saturday Night Live, John Phillip Sousa, and audience participation,” he adds.

What began two decades ago as “a serious pops concert” has been changed to include “about 50 percent comedy,” Levy says. He envisions Band-o-Rama as a “lighter-fare concert.”

How much lighter can it be when the head of the English department, Professor Timothy Spurgin, serves as the narrator for “The Three Little Pigs,” or the entire audience is lead in “the wave?”

Unicyclists, jugglers, a scavenger hunt for the audience, a Packers skit, and the on-stage building of a snowman will also be part of the show.

The “crazy, fun, unpredictable” event, as Levy describes it, will even include the crowning of a king and queen, for which voting has been taking place all week.

Levy says, “The emphasis of the program is surprise. All our music majors work incredibly hard all year long studying, practicing, [and] rehearsing day and night to grow and learn. They are extremely diligent, committed, and have a terrific work ethic. Once in a great while it’s good to step back and remind ourselves of the great joy and fun this profession can bring, and even to laugh at ourselves.

“We love making music; that’s why we do it. With Band-o-Rama we simply take two weeks and . . . have a great time. After that, we get back to being serious and giving it our all once again, maybe even with a renewed vigor.”

With all of the benefits of participating in and viewing Band-o-Rama, and even a cameo by president Richard Warch, Levy invites all to “come catch a program like you’ll not see anywhere else.